Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ “faith”

Today’s Jesus and Mo (a reprint, I think) is a particularly good one, encapsulating a long argument in just four panels:



h/t: Linda Grilli




  1. eric
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I think faith is more closely related to narcissism than intelligence. IOW, people do not have faith that they are “too smart” to be wrong. I’d guess that most fundies will readily admit they aren’t Einsteins and can be wrong. Instead, they have faith that they, among all humans, have been given the correct message. I guess that’s just a little nuance but I think its a better characterization of what’s going on in the fundie head: the emphasis is on their special chosenness, not on their claiming big braininess.

  2. Sastra
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Jesus ‘n Mo nails it. On the surface religious faith tries to look like hope or humility. “I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to make myself very small, admit my inadequacy, and choose the option which is love, beauty, and a reason for happiness reaching out to me.” Gee, doesn’t that look nice.

    But what religious faith really comes down to is making a conclusion and refusing to change your mind. Believers beg the question and then try to borrow God’s infallibility under cover of their modesty. They would never trust themselves. But God is Perfect and so they can completely trust God.

    I’ve asked many theists if they could in theory be wrong about God’s existence and watched them have little meltdowns. That’s not the right question. God’s existence isn’t a conclusion, it’s a fact. So if they are wrong then God is wrong. That’s the proper translation: could God be wrong? They think that losing the ability to distinguish between themselves and God is humble.

    I’ve actually had some theists explain that my question (“Could you be mistaken?”) is literally incomprehensible to them. This is supposed to be an impressive achievement on their part, an accomplishment which took a lot of guts and hard work.

    The rationale for their inability to take in a simple question can take several forms. Sometimes they insist God’s existence is as clear, obvious, and direct as their own existence. Which pretty much makes them identical to God (they don’t want it taken there.) Other times they claim that they’re “Nondualist” and these epistemic matters concerning truth and falsehood have fallen away from their paradigmic world view. It’s all merged into a single Truth. But atheism is still wrong — excuse me, an “illusion for which they are not judged.”

    Religious faith is a commitment to stand by a belief as if you were holding to a virtue. Doubt now becomes a moral failing, like giving up on yourself or faltering on the noble path towards the Good. Becoming pig certain about God is equated with the recognition of human weakness and God’s power. Dogmatism is interpreted as Being Open. Trusting your own inability to make a mistake is “trust in a power greater than the self.” Everything is flipped.

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Brilliant letter, Sastra. Can I steal it? You have a mind like a well-oiled grass-cutter ; no blade of grass left standing!

      But to a side-issue. I am intrigued why theists are able to Process Experiential Information (i.e. Evidence) when young, but lose that ability as they sink further into religion. It is an astonishing handicap to be able to live by side-stepping the news, and by avoiding knowing about the failing health of one’s acquaintances. And isn’t it something expected that the point of deconversion seems, so very often, to coincide with family illness or tragedy?

      The evidence against their gods piles-up daily. The recent tragedies of the missing plane and the landslide are evidence of Nogod, or an indifferent god. For atheists it is a compelling and sad reminder of an indifferent universe. The theist ability to avoid direct evidence, or to pick it apart very unconvincingly, reminds one of visiting a friend with mental health difficulties who is insisting upon some nonsense or the other.

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Your reply is exquisite. I have fundamentalist friends from childhood who, when we ever discus this issue, simply say they have made a decision to follow the word of God.

      I ask, “ANd how do you decide what the word of God is telling you about what to do TODAY?”

      “Well, I pray on it.”

      “So, ultimately you decide, based on thinkign about the topic in the light of reading a random bible passage?” (Yes, he and his family would consult the bible randomly to determine what to do when they could not independently decide a course of action.)

      “Nope. It’s not a decision I’m making. It’s revelation based on praying.”

      Grrr…. The unwillingness to consider a concept outside of the absolute assertion that “I will find the answer in the book.”

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      You really do hit the religious psychology nail on the head, based on my experience with both conservative theists (brought up Mormon) and liberal theists (with whom I’m currently forced to work as an organist; desperately trying to jump tracks to teaching).

      That theists tie their beliefs up with their identity/character/worth as a person makes it nigh on impossible to argue with them. Best you can usually hope for is to plant some seeds. But come to think of it, that’s probably the mechanism by which most theists-turned-atheist found their atheism. I highly doubt many theists went atheist in the course of a face-to-face argument.

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      A closely related logic bomb is to ask the theist if they can think of anything about any of their gods in which their gods are worng. Not in the sense of, “I know Jesus wants me to floss more often but I don’t and I feel guilty about it,” but rather, “Jesus really (will / won’t) grant grace to abortionists, and that’s just not right.”

      If they’re in perfect agreement with the gods on everything, then either they themselves are as perfect as the gods, or they’re just talking to themselves and pretending that they’re gods.


  3. Matt G
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    This is what is known in the trade as a pwn. They portray themselves as full of humility, but their “faith” is really the manifestation of their own narcissism.

  4. Friendlypig
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    What would William of Occam have said?

    I am real and exist in the natural world.
    You are real and exist in the natural world.

    Is your God real? Does your God exist in the natural world?

    Yes: Then your God is bound by the laws of physics, and isn’t a God.

    No: Then your God does not exist.

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      But one can declare by fiat that God is not bound by the laws of physics b/c God is ‘outside’ of material reality. God influences events in the natural world, but is not bound to them. And oh yes, God is also everywhere, and is in everything. But God is not physical. Is that not clear?

      • Friendlypig
        Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Then we apply Peter Boghossian’s argument: Making a truth claim about things that you could not possibly know is nothing more than pretense.

        And the only time something was everywhere and in everything was at the precise moment of the big bang, God’s spread a little thin by now.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted March 27, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

          How thin?
          I’m trying to figure out whether those COBE images look more like a fingerprint, or a histological slide.

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Look… religion is the safety valve that allows a person to retreat into “I’m going to do damn well whatever I decide” without having to say that out loud.

      Classic managerial technique: “I’ll talk to management and get back to you with the answer….” wait…
      “Well, sorry, I pulled for you, but management says we’re going to go MY way.”

      Substitute in “I’ll pray on it” for “I’ll talk to management”.

  5. Posted March 26, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    This is actually where I started parting ways with the Catholic Church, lo those many years ago, as I was a seminarian seeking to know “God’s Will” for me.

    I was told I had to find it, but when I told my superiors I had figured it out, they said they didn’t think that was it. I asked, “How the hell do YOU know God’s will for me, and further, it ultimately comes down to ME making a judgment call on what I believe is Gods’ Will for me. So… “God’s Will” is my judgment, and if I’m held accountable for that someday by God, I’ll have to say, “You mumbled!!!!”

    • eric
      Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Mumbled indeed. There are all sorts of paradoxes here. One is trying to assert that the message is oh so very clear, when its blatantly obvious that everyone thinks it says something different from what their neighbor thinks it says. Another paradox arises when they simultaneously (or at times which are close together) assert that the message is clear but that God can’t show himself because of free will or whatever. A clear message would be showing himself, guys.

  6. KP
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I had the analogue of this same argument a week ago. Long story short, I tried to explain the rules of evidence we use in every other area of discourse and I ended with, “why does religion get an exemption from that?” Answer: “The Bible!” Literally, those two words were the answer I got.

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